How to Become a Better Mentor and Why It Even Matters

Feb 28, 2019 4 Min Read

Advancement doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Whether it was a supervisor at your college internship or a more experienced co-worker at your first ‘real’ office job, chances are high that some influential people advocated for and contributed to your upward trajectory in the business world.

This type of mentorship is critical to the professional achievement of so many. In fact, 92 per cent of entrepreneurs who have been mentored indicate these relationships had a direct impact on the growth of their small businesses.

An opportunity to invest in the career of a future leader is beneficial for both the mentee and the mentor.

You have the unique clout to impart what you’ve learnt on to someone who’s just starting to grow and learn. In doing so, you mould both the development and expertise of the next generation in your field.

However, simply telling someone what to do, or accepting a mentorship without thinking about how you can truly add value, means you may not be the best mentor you can be.

To have the greatest impact, you need to become an equally great mentor. Take the following steps into account as you prepare to assume the role of a truly life-changing mentor.

1. Communicate expectations

Whether you’re assigned a mentee or approached by someone who wants to be mentored, the first step is always to create ground rules and set expectations. Describe the level of commitment you expect of a mentee and how they should behave within this relationship.

Some justified expectations are honouring scheduled appointment times, listening with undivided attention, being prepared to absorb and utilise feedback, assuming the initiative to be coachable, and establishing trust and honesty in communication.

This is also a good time for the mentee to lay out their goals for mentorship or what they hope to learn. This will both inform and define your role, and help you develop a structure for how they will get there

2. Be aware of gender disparities in your industry

Mentorship is even more essential to women confronting the corporate gender divide. Yet, almost 50 per cent of women entrepreneurs name a lack of mentors as one of their main difficulties.

This has been the reality for HealthMarkets chief human resources officer Sandi Knight, and she’s seen it affect many other women, in healthcare and beyond.

Knight explains, “I have faced this challenge in the healthcare and insurance industry, but I also know women across many industries have faced this same issue: needing a mentor or several mentors to give career and business guidance. Since healthcare is both fast-paced and ever-changing, this guidance is particularly important.”

To be a better mentor, be available to everyone who needs your guidance. Stay aware of this gender disparity, ensuring that you’re able to guide anyone who’s looking to move up in their career or business.

Check this out: Ask Roshan: What is the Purpose of Mentoring?

3. Check other implicit biases you might have

Actively notice and resist your own sociocultural biases, which could harm the relationship. Whether these entrenched impressions are based on racial, economic, sexual or religious factors, be intentional about removing the stereotypes from your mindset as a mentor.

Start “monitoring your thoughts when you hear an ethnic last name, see a skin colour, hear an accent, view a disability or learn that a person is [LGBTQ]”, suggest career experts at Monster.

In all your encounters with a mentee, your goal is to celebrate and empower their diversity instead of allowing prejudice to affect your methodologies.     

4. Learn how to provide good feedback

There will be times when you need give feedback – if you’re not providing feedback, step one is to make time to do so. This is one of the best ways for your mentee to learn. The key is giving feedback in a way that’s both useful and constructive.

Here are some features of great feedback, according to The Boda Group managing partner Jennifer Porter:

  • Organisationally aligned: If you’re a manager at your mentee’s job, bring organisational values into the feedback.
  • Behavioural and specific: Provide clear and focused feedback; don’t use vague phrases without specific examples.
  • Positive and negative: “Despite the fact that many of us struggle to hear it, negative feedback serves as important fuel for other changes that are needed. And recognising progress on meaningful work – which positive feedback highlights – is one of the best drivers of engagement, motivation, and innovation,” says Porter.
  • Pattern-focused: Share feedback on regular patterns of behaviour, rather than a one-time event.
  • Link to impact: Always focus on how this good or challenging situation impacted the person or company.
  • Prioritised: Prioritise the feedback by what’s most important. We can only work on so many changes at once.  

5. Boost their growing professional network

While you’re not required to facilitate all of your mentee’s business connections, you likely know other professionals who could benefit the mentee’s career goals. If they’re serious, proactive and intentional about growth opportunities, consider introducing the mentee to contacts in your own network.

Nearly 85 per cent of positions are filled as the result of connections made between talented young workers and established authorities in the field, according to a LinkedIn survey. If you can help your mentee cultivate and maintain those relationships, you can take one more step toward furthering their success.

Be a better mentor

When done right, mentorship is an equally beneficial process for both parties involved. You can relish in the satisfaction of developing someone’s career, just as mentors have done for you, while they gain an insider’s perspective on what it means to be successful in a certain line of business.

This reciprocal dynamic is one of the most rewarding and impactful ways to make a difference for the trailblazers and innovators of tomorrow.

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Jessica Thiefels is the founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, a content marketing agency. She has been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, and more.

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